Following the government’s announcement that it would legislate to allow gay couples to marry in Scotland, the Catholic Church has continued to claim homosexuality is ‘hazardous and dangerous’ and said ‘no society’ should ‘facilitate or encourage’ gay relationships.

Peter Kearney, spokesman for the Catholic Church, told Scotland Tonight yesterday there was “a link between same-sex sexual practice and early death”.

Appearing on the Shelagh Fogarty programme on BBC Radio 5 yesterday he said gay couples should not be entitled even to civil partnerships.

He told host Dominic Laurie: “That same-sex couples should be able to enter into relationships solemnised or recognised by the state? Well no, we would believe that same-sex relationships are profoundly harmful both physically, biologically, mentally, emotionally and I have to say spiritually to those involved.

“No society should facilitate or encourage anyone to enter into a same-sex relationship.

He added: “The evidence speaks for itself. The suicide rates among gay men, the reduction in life span, among those involved in the practice…”

Laurie interrupted him, saying: “I’m sorry but I think gay couples listening would find that objectionable, that you say they are harming themselves.”

Mr Kearney replied: “I would hope they wouldn’t find it any more objectionable than someone with an alcohol problem being told ‘You’re likely to reduce your life expectancy’.

“Well, maybe they would, I don’t know. But the reality is that’s not my evidence, I haven’t made that up. That’s a matter of fact.

“The behaviour involved same-sex practice is profoundly hazardous and harmful to the well-being of those involved. Now society can turn a blind eye to that and say ‘Look, who cares? Let’s take a laissez-faire attitude and let them get on with it’ and generally speaking, in our self-obsessed have-it-all society, that is the attitude we take.

“But the Church can’t take that attitude, we have to look at what’s best for the individual, whether it be someone who has an addiction to drugs, tranquilisers, alcohol, whatever, or same-sex behaviour and say ‘That’s not what’s best for you’.”

Laurie responded: “I think some gay couples would refute the allegation that their love is an addiction, but I think we’ll probably move on to our next question.”

Mr Kearney concluded marriage equality was “immoral and illogical” and about the “normalisation of same-sex behaviour”. He also claimed the majority of Scots are opposed to equal marriage rights, although this is not reflected in opinion polls and Mr Kearney did not cite any evidence.

When PinkNews.co.uk contacted Peter Kearney last year to ask for evidence for a statement made by head of the Catholic Church in Scotland, Cardinal O’Brien, about marriage equality, Peter Kearney said there was evidence to show gay relationships were “medically exceptionally hazardous”.

Mr Kearney cited research by the Family Research Institute, designated a ‘hate group’ in the US by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and a study of gay men’s health during the height of the IA whose own authors warned it could not be used to draw that conclusion as long ago as 2001.

The authors said it “appears that our research is being used by select groups in US and Finland to suggest that gay and bisexual men live an unhealthy lifestyle that is destructive to themselves and to others.

“These homophobic groups appear more interested in restricting the human rights of gay and bisexuals rather than promoting their health and well being.”

They continued: “If we were to repeat this analysis today [in 2001] the life expectancy of gay and bisexual men would be greatly improved. Deaths from HIV infection have declined dramatically in this population since 1996.”

PinkNews.co.uk asked Mr Kearney why he and the Church continued to represent the study as evidence of reduced life expectancy for gay men but did not receive a response.

Responding to similar comments Mr Kearney made on Scotland Tonight yesterday, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie MSP said: “I am disappointed by Mr Kearney’s comments, which came on a day when Scotland was sending a strong message of acceptance. These kinds of comments are not helpful and only seek to inflame discord in our society.

“If he’s got any evidence he should publish it, but because he doesn’t he hasn’t. He should stop scaremongering.

“LGBT charities such as Stonewall and the Equality Network have worked in a positive manner to dispel health myths and engage Scotland in discussion.

“I would encourage Mr Kearney to withdraw his comments and work constructively with the Scottish Government.”

Tom French, Policy Coordinator for the Equality Network, said: “The leadership of the Catholic Church have sunk to a new low in their campaign against equal rights for LGBT people. They have chosen to pursue ignorant and offensive claims about the lives of loving same-sex couples. Thankfully, we know that the decent majority of people across Scotland want to see their LGBT friends, colleagues and family members treated as equals, with dignity and respect.”

“These baseless claims are not science – the so-called researchers simply read through obituaries in the American newspapers. The results have been repeatedly discredited and disowned by the worldwide health research community, and the Catholic Church should stop peddling this nonsense.”